[OutVoice] New Britain, CT: "Feeling Free To Be Yourself"

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Mon Mar 26 04:57:43 EDT 2007


Feeling free to be yourself 
By Joseph Wenzel IV 
March 24, 2007

Read it online:

NEW BRITAIN - A one-man show, a television program and a heterosexual child made people of all sexual orientations feel safe and secure to be themselves Saturday.

The 14th annual True Colors Conference was held at Central Connecticut State University. True Colors is the largest, statewide nonprofit organization that works with lesbians, bisexuals, transgender, intersex, and those questioning their sexuality in the United States.

The group's mission is to "create a world where youth, adults, and families of all sexual orientations and gender identities are valued and affirmed," according to Robin McHaelen, founder of True Colors.

The shinning moment of the conference for McHealen was when a heterosexual child approached her.
"I have never felt so safe. Everyone is very free to be themselves," the child told McHealen. That is exactly what McHalean wants, a "safe world" for all sexual orientations. 

But, the boy is important to McHealen. "We need allies," she said, so, people of all sexual orientation can get the equal services that they need. 

The world and the culture are changing. Yunes Yussef, True Colors secretary, said children are coming out at ages as young as 12.

But, these kids especially need support from their families and sometimes that does not happen. 

"You have to have a force behind you," Yussef said. He said the road is a lot tougher for those who come out and are not supported by loved ones. He said those children are at a higher risk for violence, homelessness, suicide and substance abuse. 

But with a little support, "they will feel safer," Yussef said.
Over a thousand people attended the conference's opening presentation Saturday and they came from everywhere. People came from Utah, Chicago, Oregon, Seattle and even California, True Colors officials said. McHealen added that every state in the Northeast and 60 percent of the towns in Connecticut were represented at the conference. And McHealen said gay, intersex, lesbian and heterosexual kids (middle and high school age) and adults were all in attendance.

When people arrived at CCSU, they were treated to an opening ceremony and a one-man show about historical gay figures. Jade Esteban Estrada transformed on stage into Michelangelo, Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein and Sylvia Rae Rivera. 

Rivera was a transgender activist who threw her shoe at New York Police for equal rights. Estrada was surprised at how many people did not know who Rivera was. Estrada discussed how it is important to "expose" these subjects with both the "queer community" and the heterosexual community.

Estrada, a standup comedian and recording artist, talked about the differences between being gay today and in the 1960s and 1970s. He said back in the 1960s and 1970s, the queer community went to gay bars and were secretive about their sexuality.

"There was a shame factor," Estrada said. But, now the queer community is out in full-force holding events like gay hikes.

He also said one of the most important points in gay history was the television show, "Will and Grace." The show featured two homosexual men and two heterosexual women who were all friends. The series helped change some women's perspectives of gays.

Estrada said heterosexual women now approach him after each show and want to be friends. When before he was not given the time of day.

Estrada sees more changes. For example, McHaelen said back 20 years ago, there were four organizations like True Colors in the country, and now there are 100. 

Another example was when he brought up the subject of a woman running for president (Hilary Clinton).

"People have not even batted an eye," Estrada said. 

People like Estrada and McHaelen can hope for the day when they do not need to educate people on Sylvia Rivera. Because maybe, they will all ready know who she is. 

To learn more about True Colors, call (888) 565-5551 or visit their Web site at www.OurTrueColors.org. 

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